Looking back on NaPoWriMo 1

Heaven Below Wordle
Originally uploaded by geminipoet

A few unexpected things happened during National Poetry Writing Month:
• I finished a chapbook that was in production for about 18 months.
• I started a new chapbook of poems completely different from the voice I’ve been using for my Anywhere Avenue poems.
• I failed in writing a new set of remix poem to accompany my Anywhere Avenue poems.

Heaven Below
This chapbook started out in the summer of 2007 as Anywhere Avenue II and it was just going to be a continuation of the poems from the first chap. The big wrench in my plans was writing “Psalm for Anywhere Avenue,” a poem that (duh!) should be in the first chapbook but was written a few weeks after I finished the original chap. My first thought was to just strike one poem out of the original chap and replace it with “Psalm.” Good plan except I had a whole ‘nother group of poems come out of my IWL, VONA and Kearny Street poetry workshops, enough poems that I would have to do a major revise of the first chap by eliminating all the poems I wasn’t happy with and changing the complete order of the book. I almost went through with this plan cuz a chapbook contest I had my eye on was coming up and I figured my best shot at winning this contest was to just send out all the best poems I had at the moment, wrap em up in the best order possible, and send it off.

Good plan (the sequel) was thwarted when I decided that as flawed as Anywhere Avenue might be it was still the best work that I had when I put the chap together and it wouldn’t be the move to just keep moving poems around to make room for the world’s best chapbook. This might be the first time I really started thinking about manuscript and that there was no reason why my MS poems couldn’t be all about Anywhere Ave but also come from different corners of Anywhere Ave as well.

Good plan (the return) got knocked out the box with the arrival of NaPoWriMo 2008. For whatever reason I thought it would be a good idea to attack NaPoWriMo with a plan and the plan was to write poems around one theme: Palimpsest. This time, the plan worked and by the time NaPoWriMo was over I had almost all the poems I needed for a new chapbook all that was missing was a few pages which got done in the summer with “Fire Escape.” Now I had a brand new chapbook still connected to my MS project but without double dipping into any of my previous poems.

Now here I was with these orphaned poems who were getting edited and revised as part of the MS but didn’t have a chapbook home and who I had no idea how to connect together. When in doubt, retrace your steps, and so I went back to the work of Jack Agüeros and re-read Sonnets from the Puerto Rican and was struck with one poem in particular–Sonnet for Heaven Below. This poem of subway magic with angels living underground in the City helped me find a new start point for my orphaned poems and off I went to make a magic #4 train line where the Pope, Pedro Pietri and Ronald Reagan all get to share space with a Nathaniel Mackey inspired “We” of Anywhere Avenue.

For whatever reason, I always thought that this group of poems was a little shy of the 16 pages I needed for a chap but once I stepped it into gear I realized I had 20+ pages. So I had enough poems, already had secured the cover art back in ’07 and now only needed one more thing to make it complete, a “Heaven Below” poem.

This poem was living in my head for about six months, just a constant refrain of what I know from City and what I really know about City, comparing and contrasting the good and bad of urban livin that finally came out on at the start of NaPoWriMo.

Three weeks later, book is all done and ready to be shared with the world. In the “Not So Good Plan” Dept, doing this while writing NaPoWriMo poems, submitting to two national poetry workshops and day-to-day livin was not the smartest move and probable accounted to why my original plan for NaPoWriMo ’09 went very much to the curb. Luckily, it was a real good curb pretty much as far from Anywhere Ave as my imagination could take me.

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